Submit, Exit or Change: Strategies of Coping with Generational Order(s) in a Transition Society

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Jessica SCHWITTEK , Department of Education and Social Science, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany

This paper aims at conceptualizing problematic conditions of transitions to adulthood in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. Previous research in Kyrgyzstan has revealed that the social order in this society comprises a strong age- and gender hierarchy. Such restrictive generational order shows as well in my qualitative study of young Kyrgyz adults. Respondents describe experiences of inter- and intrapersonal conflict when their freedom of choice (concerning study subject, marriage partner, lifestyle) is confined by their parents. While this can be said to match Kyrgyz traditions and notions of “collectivistic” culture, this strong power asymmetry is by no means taken as a matter of course by the interviewees. My study shows that young Kyrgyzstani cope with such conflicts in a variety of ways which I divided into three categories: “submit”, “change” and “exit”. The first category refers to strategies which imply the submission of the young under the rule and decisions of the elders (mainly parents or parents-in-law).  ”Change” subsumes all those strategies with which the young manage to follow through with at least part of their personal aims, engaging in compromises, trade-offs or negotiations. With the last category “exit” I labeled attempts of full or partial escapes or withdrawals from the existing social order. Furthermore, my analyses indicate, that certain narratives are used to legitimize the respective strategies: While people who engage in “change”-strategies (paradoxically) often relate to traditionalized narratives, those who submit under others’ demands in most cases deploy an individualized and self-related explanation. In the paper I wish to present the above concepts more closely, and to discuss the seemingly paradox patterns of applying and legitimizing solutions of intergenerational personal conflicts. Beyond that, I would like to discuss which implications such patterns have for the potentials and barriers of social change in a so called “transition society”.